Japan's Iran Moment

The time has come for Japan to use its prestige with the Iranians to search for a peaceful resolution to Iran’s internal turmoil. Tokyo should do so in the understanding that the nuclear issue swirling around Tehran is, at least in part, an attempt by the regime to contain its domestic problems. To deal with one without addressing the other is self-defeating. Japan also needs Iran, to support its efforts in Afghanistan, where it has invested considerable prestige and money. Tokyo can up the ante in at least two ways.

First, the Hatoyama government should appoint a special representative for human rights in Iran. The Diet, too, should stop its internal bickering for a moment to form a bipartisan committee to monitor events in Iran and reach out to Iranian legislators across a range of issues, including compliance with universal norms of human rights.

Second, Japan should take a more active role in mobilizing diplomacy at the United Nations, such as facilitating visits to Iran by U.N. human rights monitors while persuading Tehran that cooperation — in particular opening up its prisons — is in its own best interest.

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